Starting with the name A Cena (come to supper), everything about the restaurant in Portland, Oregon is welcoming; it feels like you are being invited...
Portland, Oregon is known for its trendsetting style and being ahead of the curve, so it is pretty surprising that there are relatively few gelaterias in town. The most recent one to spring on the scene is Pinolo Gelato on the restaurant row of up and coming SE Division Street.
One glance as you come into the shop and you see all the signs of a true Italian neighborhood gelateria where the quality of the gelato comes first. Hand-made signs on the walls list the flavors of the day since everything is made fresh. The proprietor, Sandro Paolini, has done both environmental and agricultural work in the US, Central America and Italy, and brings this wider perspective to his business. He has reached out to local farmers to get the very best of what is available locally to spin up his flavorful gelato. For example, Sandro has created a gelato based on the distinctive Italian prune plum (prugne verdi), supplied by a local farmer.
A mixture of Italian and English seem to be spoken at every opportunity when you enter the shop. Just as in Italy, part of the experience is the joy of the conversation and the process of choosing the flavors you want to mix. In Italy you will typically find gelato is served with two flavors, regardless of the size of the portions, and Sandro has kept that tradition at his shop in Portland. Individually the flavors are relatively simple, yet there is a distinct art to pairing the flavors in order to bring out different aspects, similar to the concept of food and wine pairings. Sandro acts as the gelato-tender, finding what’s just right for each customer.
The warmth of these interactions isn’t an accident. When asked about his motivation for opening the shop, Sandro Paolini emphasizes that it was born primarily of his desire to bring an authentic Italian-style community gathering place to Portland. Sandro’s vision is to leverage gelato as a kind of social lubricant. Gelato helps people enjoy a conversation with friends, provides a brief respite in the work day, or brings people together for an after-dinner treat.
While the grand opening was in August, the shop actually opened the doors on June 21st, on the anniversary of the summer solstice, a date that Sandro hopes will be auspicious. Given his success so far, it is hard to argue with that choice. This article illustrates the warm reception by the Portland community after the grand opening: http://www.pdxmonthly.com/articles/2015/7/22/true-tuscan-flavors-at-se-d...
As the fall weather is bringing cooler temperatures to Portland, Sandro is preparing to launch a new espresso service in the store. He is already networking with the local Italian community to try to bring an authentic Italian-style coffee experience to augment his gelato offerings.
If you are in Portland, Oregon and want to get a taste of that experience you savor in Italy at the local gelateria, then Pinolo Gelato is ready to receive you with open arms and perfectly paired gelato.